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Bogus bills on display at Hagerstown Trust

April 03, 1998

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Think you can spot a phony?

Hagerstown Trust is giving area residents an opportunity to see whether they can tell counterfeit bills from the real thing.

The challenge is part of a collection of currency from the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, Va., that will be on display at various Hagerstown Trust branches through April 20.

Brian McClain figured he could tell the difference at Hagerstown Trust's main office downtown on Friday. McClain said he constantly checks bills worth $5 or more to try to tell if they're real.

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On Friday he was fooled.

"The ones I thought were counterfeit were real and the ones I thought were real were counterfeit," said McClain, 30, of Hagerstown.

McClain said he guessed based on the color of the bill and whether it looked old and faded.

One can tell whether bills are real by their feel and by looking for the cotton fibers in the paper used to make the genuine bills, said Stephen L. Hummel, assistant vice president and branch administrator.

The older counterfeit bills made with metal plates were distinguishable because the ink was poor and ran on a person's fingers, Hummel said.

Creating counterfeit bills these days doesn't require an artist's skill to design the plates.

Anyone can make a counterfeit using a color photocopy machine with a duplex function, allowing both sides to be copied on the same piece of paper, Hummel said.

But the photocopy paper isn't the high-grade paper used by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and doesn't include the cotton fibers, he said.

By offering the counterfeit display this month, bank officials hope to educate residents and business people about counterfeit bills.

Hummel said the bank trains local business and government employees on what to look for to determine whether a bill is real.

The newer $50 and $100 bills were designed to prevent counterfeiting. They feature an off-center portrait and a message threaded from top to bottom of the bill that can be seen when held up to light, he said. For example, the message on the new $50 bill reads "USA 50."

Hummel said the older $50 and $100 bills will gradually be taken out of circulation as they deteriorate. They aren't immediately pulled out of circulation for fear people would hoard them as collectible items, he said.

People also should look out for "raised" bills during the summer, Hummel said. The bills are made when someone cuts one corner off four $20 bills and tapes the corners onto a $1 bill.

Banks must confiscate counterfeit and raised bills, leaving victims with a financial loss, Hummel said.

The display will be at:

* The 83 W. Washington St. branch through April 6.

* The Prospect Avenue branch from April 7 to 13.

* The Wesel Boulevard branch from April 14 to 20.

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